St. David’s Hall, Cardiff

Awkward schedules meant an early morning flight from Edinburgh to catch John Martyn on this slightly obscure tour, the British leg of which was not advertised on Would we be the only ones travelling to Cardiff not for the rugby, not for the Gay and Lesbian conference, but for John’s gig? A half full St. David’s Hall listened attentively to Dean Johnson, who interspersed Bish-like songs with a quiet humour; ‘I sing two sorts of song – short/sad and long/sad’. He also encouraged the audience to enjoy the rest of the evening with a ‘true musical giant’.

Indeed, John entered to a huge roar from a now near capacity crowd. It was wonderful to see John moving much more freely, perhaps now accustomed to living within the body of a ‘one-legged sumo wrestler’. Certainly we are back to a unitary set. It was a brilliant performance from first song to last. The sound was better for many a gig. A five-piece band, incorporating after a long break the various horns of Mr. Colin Tully, caressed each number in a bare, more spartan style. A new arrangement of ‘Carmine’ was bliss, the movement of ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’ into ‘My Creator’ subtle and entrancing. The twinkle, twinkle of ‘Sunshine’s better’ had a festive feel. The solo versions of ‘Easy Blues’ and ‘May You Never’ remain a highlight.

So anyone who heard this set a few months’ ago should revisit it with keen anticipation. Sharing John’s assessment of the Republican right (‘nobody ever listens to me he mused in the introduction to ‘Glorious Fool’), I have been deeply depressed since that fatal election day. This concert made me feel human once more. John can also turn your mind to new distractions. I’m starting the alphabet game nice and simple, with fruit and veg. (a)pples, (b)ananas, (c)abbage, (d)ates, (e)ggplant, (f)rozen peas…Compared to what?

Ian Thatcher